Thursday, July 19, 2012

Philosopher Kings (or at least consultants)

My good wife has had a sore back for a few days. It came on pretty suddenly and seemingly without any clear precipitating event (like weeding the garden or juggling anvils). We have a friend from church who is a chiropractor, and he graciously worked her over on Sunday afternoon. After a couple more visits this week, she appears to be getting better. I've visited a chiropractor myself a few times--one that has been a fixture in my extended family lore for quite some time. On the continuum from legitimate, scientific-based healthcare to quack, he was probably somewhat further to the right. As a child, I was taken to the chiropractor--his name was Dr. Bender (no joke)--once to see if it would help with my bed wetting. I remember him twisting my head until I thought I'd have a role in The Exorcist. I don't know if it was the adjustment or the fear of having to see him again that cured me, but I'm happy to report that things are much better in that department now.

This post really has nothing to do with chiropracty or bed wetting, but I say all that to set up the conversation my wife and I had on the way home from the chiropractors. Her (legitimate) chiropractor said something about the adjustment possibly helping the mild case of heartburn she has too. So I joked that perhaps I should get an adjustment to cure my baldness. It really was just a joke, but it was tinged with the promises of chiropracty to which I had been subjected in the past. My wife joked back with, "I suppose it's really philosophy that could cure everything." "Yes," I retorted without any joking at all, "yes, I think the world would be a better place if everyone was subjected to more philosophy." Evidently someone was listening.

It seems that there is a tiny town in Italy that has created a position called "municipal philosopher." You can read all about it here. The first appointee to the position, Graziella Lupo, is available for consultations every Friday afternoon. According to the article, the aim of such consultations is to get the citizens of Corilgliano d'Otranto to think clearly, listen to each other, and ask questions that bear on the issues at hand. If you don't think that's a step in the right direction toward a better society, perhaps you're in need a of philosophical consultation yourself! The city has also set up an interactive Philosophical Park (if your Italian is passable, you can read about it here).

Of course not everyone is happy about this. There is a local psychology society that has protested, thinking that a philosopher consultant is trespassing on their turf. Municipal philosopher Lupo responded, "I don't think the college of psychologists knows what a philosophical consultant is... the work is not on emotions, but about ideas... Their criticism is in any case devoid of epistemological content."

Those of you who have read Plato's Republic will remember the prominent place that philosophers were accorded in his ideal city. I'm afraid politics today (and perhaps the politics of every age) is such that clear thinking and listening to each other won't get you very far. So I have no intention of becoming a philosopher king. But "consultant" has a nice ring to it. Perhaps I could band together with some of my colleagues and start a philosophy consultancy. Bring us your problems. We'll do a little conceptual analysis and determine whether your qualia are epiphenomenal.  We'll examine your life until it is worth living. 

Now taking appointments.

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